November 10, 2012
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Jeff Jones
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
A Night of the Nocturnals
If there ever was a band that lived up to the saying, 'expect the unexpected', then Grace Potter & the Nocturnals certainly fit the bill. Every time this band releases a new album and goes on tour, a metamorphosis within the group has taken place. This year was no exception.
Tonight the elegant, V-neck guitar strapped Grace, debuted the 'new look' Nocturnals rocking out to the title track of their recently released album, The Lion The Beast The Beat. Michael Libramento was exceptional replacing the departed Catherine Porter on bass. Even guitarist Benny Yurco, who came on board with Porter in 2009, seemed to have found solid footing within the band. That was especially evident in the next tune that followed, "Here's to the Meantime" that he wasn't even a part of. His musicianship was exceptional. The hard charging rock number solidly set the tone for what was yet to come. This sold-out crowd knew it too!
The Nocturnals are an interesting collection of performers because everyone knows they are playing second fiddle to the focal point of the group. And they are perfectly fine with it. Simply put, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know all roads run through Grace, and in all fairness, that's exactly the way it should be. Her incredible prowess with the guitar, and the keyboards, gives her instant respect among her peers. Add that magnificent voice to the overall package, as well as her looks, and you have a dynamite package that explodes every time she takes to the stage.
As most Grace Potter fans know by now, the artist is legally blind. When the 29-year old performs on stage, she doesn't wear contacts or corrective eyewear. No, the leggy blonde works within a limited area, and in a strange way, her closed in universe brings out the best of what she has to give. The way she shakes, rattles and rolls in that confined space is exciting to watch. The fact she repeats the scene night after night makes it even more remarkable to behold.
There are no low points to a GPN show. If there are, you'd be hard pressed to find one. It is unfortunate, though, that in order for this spectacular live band to ever break out of the club circuit, it's going to need a bonafide hit single under its belt, or they'll be stuck playing the club circuit before the thousand plus faithful night after night for the rest of their careers.
There's nothing wrong with that scenario, don't get me wrong, but this band was built to perform live in front of huge groups of people. When you have a spark plug like Grace Potter igniting the engine, it's going to take her song to break GPN into the mainstream where it belongs. That observation is not a slight to the band by any means. Unfortunately it's just the facts of life. Grace and her boys have laid down a solid musical foundation to build on. They only need a 'single' pillar of strength to take this group to the next level they rightfully deserve.
The Lion The Beast The Beat is an excellent follow-up to the 2010 self-titled release. Some fans were worried that Potter was taking the band in a more country direction, especially with the success she had in her duet with Kenny Chesney on his hit, "Tequila and Me." Nothing could have been further from the truth. The six cuts performed off this album tonight either rocked out, or were solid superbly constructed ballads. Woven cleverly together with songs from the rest of the GPN catalog, the 19-song set list ran the gamut of the group's recording history. One song, "Put Your Head Down," was released this year from the 2008 recording of the group performing in the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
Potter's voice and talents aren't limited to any particular genre of music as her fans can attest to. That's why it is interesting to watch this band perform. Her sultry voice is at home whether she's singing the blues, gospel, soul or straight up rock and roll. And for kicks, she can throw some country into the mix when called upon. Keeping fans interested, and guessing as to what you're going to do, year in and year out is difficult for any band to pull off. GPN have found a way to keep the faithful, well faithful, every time they hit the road. The Nocturnals gladly taking a back seat while Grace drives the show, it keeps the audience engages from the first not to the last, singing, clapping and dancing the night away.
To the band's credit, they change the set list nightly. No two shows are repeated, and it's not uncommon for the band to cover other artists during the course of the show. Tonight, the encore feature the band paying homage to ZZ Top with "Tush" and a nod to the Beatles' classic, "All You Need is Love." It was an appropriate way to end the night between Grace and her adoring crowd.
As a kid growing up, my siblings and I never had to say 'grace' at the dinner table after we sat down to eat. We just dug in to the food and that was it. Watching this show, however, and the smorgasbord of tunes that was served on stage, I've got a whole new appreciation for the word. With GPN serving up an assortment of rock and roll delicacies for this packed house, not only was saying 'grace' this evening in order, but a hearty 'amen' was needed as well.